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The cultural sector and climate change

Climate change is having and will have negative impacts on culture, heritage, traditional knowledge and ways of life. The cultural sector (encompassing arts, heritage, media and sports) also plays an important role in helping communities understand the impacts of climate change and tell the stories of adaptive activities.

As the Government’s principal adviser on the cultural system, we advise the Government on climate risks to Aotearoa New Zealand’s cultural sector and support the sector to respond and adapt so that culture can continue to thrive sustainably now and into the future.

In recognition of the impact of climate change on Aotearoa New Zealand, we have included climate change actions in our Koromakinga Rautaki Strategic Intentions 2021–2025.

Strategic Intentions 2021-2025

Koromakinga Rautaki Strategic Intentions 2021-2025 sets out our new strategic framework — a framework that places the people of Aotearoa New Zealand at the heart of our work.

Our actions under the National Adaptation Plan

In August 2022, the Government launched Aotearoa New Zealand’s first National Adaptation Plan (NAP). This plan sets the foundational actions the Government is making to help the country adapt to, and live with, the future impacts of climate change, including managing the risks to cultural heritage.

National Adaptation Plan (Ministry for the Environment)

Over the next six years, we will lead four National Adaptation Plan actions that address the risks to cultural heritage and traditional knowledge.

Critical action

Action 5.8: Support kaitiaki communities to adapt and conserve taonga/cultural assets

This action calls for a coordinated cross-government approach, partnering with hapū, iwi and Māori. The goal is to  understand the threats to cultural heritage and support initiatives so kaitiaki communities can plan for a changing climate and adapt their cultural assets to reduce the impact.

Actions to provide new tools and powers to respond to existing risk (Ministry for the Environment)

Future actions

Action 3.26: produce guidance for disaster risk management for cultural heritage

This action will improve disaster risk management for cultural heritage through guidance on reducing risks before, during and after disasters.

Action 3.27: develop a framework for assessing exposure and vulnerability of cultural assets/taonga to climate change

Working with partners (including iwi), we will identify national and local information on taonga/cultural assets, both tangible and intangible. We will identify gaps in knowledge, information needs and governance.

We will then develop a framework (working with partners and iwi) to identify valued cultural heritage and the actual and potential exposure and vulnerability of cultural heritage to climate change. The framework will take a broad and inclusive approach, recognising the ways in which different communities identify, access and participate in what is culturally important to them.

Action 7.1: research how cultural heritage contributes to community wellbeing and climate change adaptation

This research will look at the value of cultural heritage in building and sustaining communities, and how this links to community resilience and wellbeing.

Actions to enable New Zealanders to make better risk-informed decisions (Ministry for the Environment)

Actions to increase the resilience of homes, buildings and places (Ministry for the Environment)

To ensure a thriving and resilient cultural sector now and into the future, we will need to undertake this work in partnership with other government agencies, local government, the cultural sector, communities and whānau, hapū and iwi Māori over the coming years.

Progressing our NAP actions

To improve our understanding of current information that is publicly available, in 2023 we commissioned Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research to undertake a targeted literature review to accelerate our first three NAP actions (5.8, 3.26, and 3.27).

We acknowledge the report was compiled using a Western research methodology and limited to publicly available documents that are written mainly in English.

Key findings of the literature review are:

  • Cultural heritage and taonga are rarely significant components of climate change policies, strategies, action plans and risk assessments.
  • There is a paucity of New Zealand-specific literature looking at the values of cultural heritage to the wider communities and the impacts of climate change.
  • Knowledge gaps are identified in terms of where cultural heritage sites are and how they could be affected, such as limitations of the survey coverage and data quality of the existing tools.

This review will help us scope and shape the next steps for progressing our NAP actions.

Our emissions reduction journey

We are committed to meeting our obligations under the Carbon Neutral Government Programme (CNGP) to measure, manage and reduce our emissions. We also have a role in supporting our cultural agencies to reduce their emissions.

Carbon Neutral Government Programme (Ministry for the Environment)

Establishing a baseline and setting reduction targets

In 2021/22, we undertook reporting to accurately measure our emissions. This included establishing 2019/20 as our baseline year, which we will use to compare our future reductions against.

Our measurements were independently audited by Toitū Envirocare, and we are now a Toitū carbonreduce certified organisation in line with ISO 14064-1.

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Our reduction targets

We have set gross emissions reduction targets in line with a < 1.5 degrees of global warming pathway. This means reducing our gross emissions by 21% by 2025 and by 42% by 2030 from our baseline year.

Understanding our emission sources

Through reporting, we have developed a greater understanding of the main sources of our emissions. We have also improved our methodology for measuring emissions.

The bulk of our emissions come from domestic and international air travel, staff commuting, rental car use, waste disposal and electricity.

Tracking our progress

Since our baseline year (2019/20), we have seen a reduction in our emissions, putting us on track to meet our targets. However, some of those reductions come from reduced domestic and international travel due to COVID-19.

Balancing the need for connection with carbon reduction is an important issue for us. Many of our activities rely on maintaining relationships across the country, and travel is an important part of this. We have set up an internal Emissions Reduction Working Group to help manage consistent reductions in our emissions.